I flew out of the most hated airport in the US — and I was shocked at how much better it's become in less than a year

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderThe new pickup area for ride-hailing vehicles was a major improvement.

  • New York’s LaGuardia Airport has a reputation for being one of the worst airports in the US.
  • I reviewed my experience flying out of Terminal B in December 2017 and found it to be dirty, cramped, and poorly lit.
  • I flew out of the terminal again in November and noticed improvements.
  • In its current state, LaGuardia is still not equipped to be a transit hub for one of the biggest cities in the world, but recent improvements indicate that it’s on the right track.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport has a reputation for being one of the worst airports in the US.

While New York City’s government cited proximity to the airport as an advantage Amazon would gain by locating its second headquarters in Long Island City in its pitch to the company (Amazon ultimately decided to place half of its second headquarters in Long Island City), travellers who use the airport have suggested that working close to it could be a curse as much as a blessing.


Read more: The 10 airports in America people hate flying into the most

A 2018 study of more than 40,000 travellers by JD Power found that respondents were less satisfied with their experiences at LaGuardia than at any other large or medium airport in North America. That may change in the years to come, as an $US8 billion makeover is underway, but for now, LaGuardia still lags behind other major airports.

I reviewed my experience flying out of Terminal B in December 2017 and found it to be dirty, cramped, and poorly lit. I flew out of the terminal again in November and noticed improvements. Concourse C, where my gate was located, was cleaner and brighter than the year before. Even better was the new pickup area for ride-hailing services, which was a vast improvement over the old system.

In its current state, LaGuardia is still not equipped to be a transit hub for one of the biggest cities in the world, but recent improvements indicate that it’s on the right track.

Here’s what I saw during my most recent trip to LaGuardia.


I arrived at the airport a little before 6 pm on a Tuesday.

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I noticed that progress had been made on construction near Terminal B.

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Here’s what it looked like in December 2017.

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While traffic getting to the airport was bad, I was surprised that the ticketing area was nearly empty. It appeared much of the airport traffic was caused by cars waiting to pick up travellers flying to LaGuardia, rather than dropping off travellers flying elsewhere.

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The largest of the two food courts in Terminal B was still one of the terminal’s highlights.

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It was clean, spacious, and offered a solid variety of dining options.

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There were a few new stores above the food court, including a candy store …

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… and a women’s clothing and accessories store.

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On the opposite side of the terminal was a smaller food court with other options …

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… including Five Guys …

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… and a Dunkin Doughnuts and Baskin Robbins.

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Once I got to security, I was surprised to find that the TSA pre-check line was the longer of the two lines.

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After I got through security, I was struck by how much better the concourse looked this time around. The concourse was still too small, but there were two big improvements I noticed:

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Cleaner floors …

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… and brighter lighting.

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In December 2017, there were garbage cans positioned to catch water dripping from the ceiling.

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And the lighting was dimmer.

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This time around, there were also a few new features, like this massage station.

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There were also two private workspaces.

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And it looked like there were more additions to come.

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There were still signs of wear and tear.

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And not every surface was spotless, but the concourse was, overall, in better shape than it was 11 months earlier.

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The biggest remaining issue was the limited amount of space in the concourse. Some of the seating areas were smaller than at other airports in major cities.

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And space constraints meant airlines couldn’t offer big, enclosed guest lounges to their customers. This was what American Airlines’ Admirals Club looked like.

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The lack of space also meant food options were limited to the grab-and-go variety, rather than sit-down restaurants or a food court.

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When I arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, I was reminded again of how much room for improvement there was at LaGuardia.

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O’Hare was tied for the fourth-worst airport on JD Power’s 2018 survey, but walking through Terminal 1, I was struck again by how much larger it is than much of LaGuardia.


While LaGuardia’s cleanliness improved between December 2017 and November 2018, O’Hare’s floors were even cleaner.

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There was more room for seating.

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And better food options …

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… including a sit-down restaurant.

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But I didn’t experience the best part of my trip to LaGuardia until I returned from Chicago.

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In May, LaGuardia moved the pickup area for ride-hailing services to the new Terminal B parking garage.

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Before May, travellers who wanted to hail a ride with Uber or Lyft had to take a shuttle to an outdoor pickup area that, in my experience, was often crowded and disorganized.

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The garage kept congestion to a minimum by creating separation between pickup lanes.

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Minutes after I ordered an Uber, my phone, which had between 20-30% of its battery left, abruptly shut off. When I tried to turn it back on, it said I had run out of battery. This charging station allowed me to charge my phone enough to make it through my Uber ride and avoid paying a cancellation fee.

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The new ride-hailing pickup area was the strongest indication I received that LaGuardia is making progress.

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Though LaGuardia is still a long way from matching the quality of airports in other major US cities, the differences I noticed over the course of 11 months were encouraging. And less than two weeks after my trip, LaGuardia opened a new concourse in Terminal B, which appears to be a major improvement over Concourse C.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has said the airport’s $US8 billion overhaul will be finished by 2021, which means LaGuardia’s reputation as a regional embarrassment could soon become a thing of the past.

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